JAMES ANTHONY PHILLIPS.
James is a good friend and also a person who can identify a soundtrack that is particularly original and interesting. His knowledge of films and film music is great, and he has an eclectic palette when it comes to both. He is a Scholar and a teacher and has written numerous articles on the subject of both films and film music.
1 Why film music, what is it about music for the movies that attracts you and excites you?
I was really aware of music in films since childhood. In 1966, Hitchcock’s VERTIGO was first shown on network television in New York and I had a clear view of the family television from my bedroom. At that time, we only had a black & white set with the rabbit ear antenna, so you had to get up and adjust it to get a decent picture. Once the credits came on and I saw the eye with the music haunted me for years. Finally, the restored version came out in colour, and I was shocked because I thought it was filmed in black & white. Television scores such as The Man From U.N.C.L.E., MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE, and MANNIX along with BATMAN, STAR TREK, and Warner Bros cartoons. Walt Disney animated films and then my life changed when the James Bond craze hit. I nagged my father into taking us to see YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE because of all of the subway posters throughout the system and I’ve been hooked on John Barry ever since.
Film music took me to a new time and place and feed my imagination.
2 What was your first soundtrack and at what age did you buy this? I picked up Herrmann’s score to TAXI DRIVER and OBSESSION right after graduating high school, I had a friend who had the entire album collection of Elmer Bernstein’s Film Music Collection for sale at $5 each, so I bought them. My favourites were Herrmann’s THE GHOST AND MRS MUIR, TORN CURTAIN, Rozsa’s MADAME BOVARY, and the Alex North score VIVA ZAPATA.
This was around 1978. In 1979, my aunt gave me Jerry Goldsmith’s STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE album for Christmas and that cemented my collection mania of all things Goldsmith to this day.
3. What’s your opinion of contemporary film music as opposed to film music from the 1960s through to the late 1980s?
I prefer the orchestral scores of the 1960s, with Goldsmith being the leader and the occasionally Herrmann, but it was really the 1970s that changed the style of films and film scores.
However, it was John Williams who without a doubt created the return of the grand orchestral sound with STAR WARS, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, and SUPERMAN, which to me is the greatest march in film history, even beating out the Alfred Newman from THE CAPTAIN FROM CASTILE. It was the love of these films that led me to the 1930s of the Viennese school composers such as Max Steiner, Korngold, and Franz Waxman. KING KONG, THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD, and THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN can beat out any score from today and Williams fans out there know it.
4 What soundtrack would you release if a record company said to you ok James you can do whatever you want?
This could be a touchy situation because I had written to several label producers about composers and certain scores, but if I had the rights from Universal, I would do the Gil Melle score to FRANKENSTEIN: THE TRUE STORY, a two-part television film. The film is very haunting, very different from previous Frankenstein scores and composed in the Romantic classical style.
5. Let’s have a desert island scenario, it is just you on an island, but you are allowed 10 soundtracks, what would you choose to take? This is one of the toughest questions I will have to answer since I love everything that is orchestral and jazz within many genres, so here goes:
1. ALEXANDER NEVSKY – Prokofiev
2. BEN-HUR – Rozsa
3. THE WILD BUNCH – Fielding
4. A TOUCH OF EVIL – Mancini
5. THE WIND AND THE LION – Goldsmith
6. THE OMEGA MAN – Grainer
7. THE GHOST AND MRS MUIR – Herrmann (Dorothy Herrmann, one of his daughters, once told me that her father considered this to be his favourite).
8. THE MISSION – Morricone
9. FIELD OF DREAMS – Horner
10. EL CID – Rozsa
6 before the arrival of CD’S how many soundtracks did you have on LP record? I had about 800, but lost many of them in a basement flood back in 1996.
7 Do you still play records as well as CDs, and do you do digital at all via music sites such as Spotify and I tunes?
I enjoy listening to records and CDs, as well as ones I have on cassette tapes while I am at home. When I am on the go, it’s Spotify. Great service and very easy. I don’t have Apple products so I no I-Tunes for me.
8 Have you been searching for a score that has remained elusive? It seems that the labels have been releasing my Grails and I have been a happy camper.
The most recent example is COLOSSUS: THE FORBIN PROJECT, Michel Colombier’s CITIZEN KANE.
9 what composer or composers would you say dominate your collection?
Without a doubt: Jerry Goldsmith in vinyl and CDs. Next would be Herrmann, Williams, and Schifrin. I also have a lot of James Horner. I want to praise the late Michael Kamen, with whom I had an email correspondence and he was kind enough to answer a few of my questions and he also sent me an autographed photo that I have framed on the wall in my bedroom.
10.whats the most that you have paid for a soundtrack and which one was it?
I bought the hexagonal ANDROMEDA STRAIN album at the old Footlight Records shop in Manhattan for $125. Gil Melle designed the cover and vinyl. When he and his wife Denise came to New York in 2003, was kind enough to inscribe it and now I also have it framed and hanging on my wall.
11 Do you lament the fading out of the main theme or main title music in films nowadays?
YES! One good thing about the Marvel superhero films is that special clip at the end of the credits and you get to hear the full sweep of the score the way the composer intended. I also enjoy the opening fanfares from 20th Century Fox, Universal, and others.